Date of stay: Sep 2011
Where you stayed:Hotel Los Mirasoles
Travelled with: Wife
Tour or pre planned: Pre-planned
Oaxaca feels like the real Mexico. It’s big enough to give you a ton of things to do but feels like it’s a lot smaller than it actually is. This is a good thing; as it gives you that ‘small-town’ feel and you can just about walk everywhere you want to go.
We stayed in the Centro Historico area of Oaxaca which is easily walkable and full of colourful houses and art galleries lining every street.
I can highly recommend the place we stayed at, Los Mirasoles. It had cool natural surroundings, very spacious rooms, a huge comfortable bed and a great location right in between the bus station and Zocalo (main square). At 400 pesos per night, you can’t complain either.
Before I get into what there is to see and do in and around Oaxaca, let me just tell you about the food (you knew this was coming). Oaxacans LOVE their food. And it clearly shows. Their signature dishes contain one of the seven ‘Mole’ sauces available, and they are all lovingly prepared in various ways, offering you seven different ways to experience it.
There are many places that offer these locally prepared dishes, but I can heartily recommend a place called Terranova, located on the south-eastern side of the Zocalo. Downstairs they do basic quick dishes and snacks with drinks, but upstairs is where they pull out the big guns and give you a huge range of dishes to choose from. I can’t remember the name of it, but there is one which allows you to try four of the seven Mole Sauces. Do it. Just do it.
If you want a great place to drink, you can’t go wrong with El Olivio. A very funky place where all the locals go for a chilled out Mezcal or beer.
In terms of things to see in and around Oaxaca, please follow me:
All the buzz happens around the Zocalo (main square), with its impressive cathedral and lively atmosphere. Marching bands will randomly roar through during the day while Mariachi singers serenade you while you eat/drink at one of the many bars/restaurants lining the square.
Make sure you check out Oaxaca’s markets too, especially Mercado Juarez, located 1 block south of the Zocalo, where you’ll find everything from chillies, roasted grasshoppers, wrestling masks and giant piñatas.
If you want something a little more cultural, you can head to the Camino Real Hotel (Calle 5 de Mayo) for a Guelaguetza show, which runs every Friday at 7pm (365 pesos, including a buffet dinner). The hotel itself is an old converted convent, and is impressive in its own right.
TOURS AROUND OAXACA STATE
Monte Alban is the most impressive archaeological site to visit here, and is worth it as there are many ruins set high atop a hill with panoramic views all around.
Another tour I highly recommend you to take usually includes the following 5 stops and only costs around 130pesos (includes transportation and guide):
1. Hierve El Agua – There are magnificent panoramic views to be had here. The site boasts petrified waterfalls and calcium enriched pools right on a cliff, which makes for a pretty dramatic setting. Here you can swim in the natural pools, so bring your swimmers and a towel. Trust me, it’s worth it.
2. Mitla Ruins – These are nice enough ruins surrounded by various species of cacti, but it is nothing spectacular, especially if you are visiting other top sites in Mexico. The markets here are interesting and good value.
3. El Tule – The world’s biggest tree, measuring over 58 metres wide. A short stop here, but worth it.
4. Teotitlan – Watch the traditional weaving of rugs, made the same way over hundreds of years. I’m not usually into this sort of thing, but it was actually very interesting. The rugs were nice, even if a little on the expensive side.
5. Mezcal factory – Here you’ll get to learn how Mezcal is made first hand, and then get to sample over 20 different flavours. I recommend buying a bottle of the Crema de Maguey, Maracuya (passionfruit) flavour.
If you want a recommendation for the above tours, you can head to a place called Monte Alban Tours (Alcala, 206). They have great friendly knowledgeable guides, and the buffet stop was awesome compared to what we expected (for an extra 120pesos).
One thing you should definitely take part in while in Oaxaca, is a cooking class. If you love cooking, or eating, or eating while cooking, then you will not be disappointed as you’ll be taken on a culinary journey of gastronomical proportions.
We did ours with Casa Crespo (Allende 107). It’ll set you back US$65, but I can assure you it’s worth every penny. Classes begin daily at 10am and last for around 4-5 hours. You’re in safe hands with the owner/operator/chef Oscar, a true Mexican who loves what he does (who wouldn’t?).
After a quick breakfast and a plan of the menu (you get to choose what you want to cook), he took us through the local food market to buy all the ingredients, then proceeded to cook and prepare several different mole sauces, salsas, guacamoles, tortillas, stuffed jalapenos, desserts & drinks in his kitchen. Just before you get to eat it all, you will get to sit on his rooftop overlooking a beautiful square sinking back a few coronas.
If you have any questions about Oaxaca, drop a comment below and I’d be happy to answer.
Points to highlight:
From the colourful sights and sounds of the Centro Historico area, the history embedded in the surrounding ancient ruins and traditional villages, to the fantastic food on offer and friendly atmosphere, you will simply enjoy your stay in Oaxaca. If you want to experience the ‘true’ Mexico, then this would probably be the place.
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Would you recommend your accommodation: Yes
Overall rating: 4.5/5